Yesterday marked the grand finale of my 4 (races) in 4 (weeks) series: the Mississauga Half Marathon.
After pouring rain and thunderstorms all day Saturday, we awoke to a cool, cloudy and windy (but dry!) morning on Sunday. The temperature was only about 3C (37F) when we left the house, but it was closer 7C (44F) by the time the race started. Still, it was brisk. I was second-guessing my wardrobe choice of capri pants and a short-sleeve top, but decided to stick with the plan and brought an old sweater to toss once we got moving.
We arrived extra early with more than an hour to spare and found a great parking spot just steps from the start line (this worked out great for ditching our sweats at the last minute).
We wandered around a bit and made a few trips to the port-o-potties while we waited. I also got to catch up with several people from my marathon clinic, including our coach. I told him that I thought I had another PR in me.
Hubby took a quick pic of me in my starting corral, hopeful for a sub-1:55 finish. (I would later remember this photo during the race and will myself to keep moving so I would actually be able to post it!)
Before long, it was time to ditch the warm-ups, wish each other good luck and line up with thousands of other runners in our respective corrals. I felt just a slight chill huddled in the crowd and knew I would warm up quickly once we got going. I was feeling good and ready to go!
In the days leading up to the race, I was torn between an aggressive goal/strategy (~1:50) and conservative goal/strategy (~1:55). In the end, I took Yumke‘s advice and wore both a 1:50 and 1:55 pace band – unfortunately, I didn’t tape it well enough and managed to snag it on something, tearing it off before the race even started. Still, I had a good idea of the target paces and resolved to try to keep it somewhere in the middle for the first half and see how I felt in the later in the race.
It took me almost 2:30 to cross the start line and I had numbers reeling through my head the entire time. When we eventually got moving, I relaxed a little and tried to find my ‘comfortably hard’ pace. It was pretty crowded for a while, but I didn’t find myself jockeying too much.
Unfortunately, I don’t have splits. I had decided to use the lap button on my Garmin at each kilometre marker, but forgot to turn off auto-lap. Oops. I couldn’t be bothered to mess with the buttons once the race had started, so my laps are all over the place and I ended up with 29 laps for 21 kilometres. Oh well – I’ll figure this out eventually!
As a result, I relied on a combination of average pace (taking in to account my watch being slightly ahead of the kilometre markers) and checking my time at each marker. I was doing a lot of math in my head, which turned out to be a pretty good distraction.
We headed west (straight into the wind) on a slight incline for the first few kilometres before enjoying a sharp decline to about the 5K mark. The wind didn’t feel too good, but I knew it would be short-lived and didn’t let it bother me. I kept my pace right around 5:15/km and felt good.
At 5K we turned south for some relief from the wind. I took in the scenery as we followed a quiet winding road lined with lush forests. I found myself immersed in green and felt elated as the kilometres ticked by. I took my first gel (Gu Tri-Berry) around 7K. As usual, I did not carry my own water, but took advantage of the water stations every ~2KM alternating Gatorade and water. (Side note: I’m getting pretty good at taking water without walking. I can slow to a quick jog for a few paces and I’m good to go.)
We ran a loop within the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus and faced our first real incline at this point. It felt harder than I thought it should, but I hung on and recovered on the subsequent downhill.
At 10K we faced the “real” hill. It was a steep climb and it was painful, but I knew there was plenty of downhill to come. Still, it wiped me out quite a bit and I struggled over the next couple kilometres. The usual thoughts started running through my head: “I started too fast,” I’m fading,” “I have to keep this up for HOW much longer?!” My pace was right on target and I remembered my photo under the 1:45-1:54 sign. There was no turning back now and I was not going to sell myself short because I felt a little tired.
We were running through some really nice neighbourhoods with great crowd support (especially at the intersections) and I took an orange wedge from one generous spectator (yum!). I took my second gel at the same time (Gu Chocolate) as we approached the 14K aid station.
Just before 15K, the marathoners veered to the right as we continued straight. I remember thinking to myself that I was glad not to be running 42.2 kilometres that day. 🙂 (Marathoners rock!) Suddenly, the 6K to the finish didn’t seem like much.
I was tired, but I was on pace and knew I had to hold on. Around 16K we reached the waterfront (paved) trail, which would take us on a winding but relatively flat route (gentle rollers) all the way to the end. I was doing everything in my power to distract myself and keep my legs moving. I slowed slightly, despite wanting more than anything to speed up. I was counting steps, counting people, counting down the kilometres.
With 2K to go, I glanced at my time and knew that I could come in under 1:55 even if I slowed to 6:00/km (not happening!). I managed to pick it up slightly, but even as I passed the 20K marker, the finish line seemed miles away.
In the final few hundred metres, we followed the path around a bend along the water to the home stretch. It was NEVER-ENDING and I couldn’t even see the finish line until it was practically right in front of me.
But sure enough, there it was. The official clock showed 1:54XX and I raised my arms in the air as I crossed the line, knowing I had done it. One more PR in the books!
Chip time 1:52:29
(Hubby also PR’d with 1:31:50.)
We stuck around after the race and grabbed a bench along the waterfront trail to cheer on the marathoners (and remaining half’ers – including Emily and her “army”). I unfortunately missed Yumke finishing a strong #6 in 3:25, but got a hug from Marci as she approached the finish of her 12th marathon – and she was looking fabulous! Melanie‘s day didn’t exactly go as planned, but she was a real trooper and has a lot to be proud of. Upon reading her story, I was reminded of John Bingham’s famous quote:
“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
Thanks for reading.